Stop Having Visitors at Your Church

Question: Why do we refer to the new people in our churches as “visitors”? I mean, on the surface it makes sense, every week we all have people who come just to dip their toe in the water, but why must we refer to them as visitors? You may never have thought about it before but that term has such an insider/outsider connotation to it. After all, people don’t visit someplace they belong to, they visit places they know they’ll eventually leave. When people “visit” my house I don’t expect them to stay, that’s why I use the term “visit” in the first place. So when we welcome visitors to our church it’s as if even we don’t expect them to stay!

Maybe I’m being trivial and then again maybe I’m not, because If you’ve ever been misunderstood then you already know how easily your words can have unintended consequences. And, if you’re married then you know that it’s not just the words you say but it’s the tone of how you say them that communicates as much as anything. That’s because the words we choose communicate so much more than just the meaning that we find in the dictionary. Your words carry with them an emotional currency and a weight that’s felt by your audience even if they’re not fully understood.

Quite frankly, this is something that a lot of churches miss. I know we did, and I hate to think that we’re unknowingly communicating in ways that are hurting us every week. So, how can we change this? Well, let’s get practical, here are a couple of my biggest communication pet peeves to help get the conversation started.

The Guilt Trip
This is one of the most obvious communication no-no’s there is and yet it happens ALL THE TIME! There’s a fine line between speaking with conviction and making people feel guilty. In my opinion, correcting your audience is something only the most seasoned leaders should attempt to do and even then it should be done with a lot of wisdom and grace.

I see a lot of worship leaders fall into this trap. We want to motivate our congregations to worship so we use guilt as our weapon of choice. Saying things like “When we get to heaven we’re going to worship forever so you may as well get used to it now” and “there are people in (insert random third-world country here) who worship so much more passionately than you do” isn’t helping anything.

Honestly, trying to make our congregation feel guilty is an admission that we don’t feel like our worship service shortcomings are our own fault. Sure, we have our fair share of dispassionate people, (who doesn’t?) but if we spend our time blaming them for where we are we’ll never improve at the things we can control.

Shooting From The Hip
Is there anything that says “I don’t care” like being completely unprepared on stage? I mean really? You’re essentially telling your audience, “I didn’t even bother to think through what I was going to say before I got up here so I’m just gonna wing it.” I’m looking at you Mr. Announcements/Offering guy! Seriously, why does this part of our services have to be SO LONG? I think it’s primarily because we don’t prepare. After all, it’s just the announcements isn’t it? But my experience has taught me that it’s the details that make the difference between good and great.

To be honest, I’ve been guilty of this more times than I care to admit and when it comes right down to it, I’m just being lazy as a communicator. I owe my congregation and ultimately my God my very best EVERY time I hit the stage and you do, too. I’m not saying you should memorize every word you’re going to say, but you should at least carefully think them through.

So, I went first, now it’s your turn. What are some of your biggest church communication pet peeves? Share them in the comments below and let’s help each other be more intentional about our communication.

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Whitney George
Lead Pastor
Whitney George is the Executive Pastor at Church on the Move, where he oversees the operations and ministries of the church. Whitney is passionate about the local church and loves connecting with other church leaders. He and his wife, Heather, have five children and he loves Notre Dame football.
@whitneygeorge